USA Indicts Men Charged in Brazil with Murder of American NunWASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - Two Brazilian nationals have been indicted in the United States in connection with the February murder of Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, a Catholic nun, in the Amazon region of Brazil.
The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that a three count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, charges both men with: conspiracy to murder a U.S. national outside the United States; murder of a U.S. national outside the United States; and using, carrying and discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence.
The two men who were indicted - Rayfran das Neves Sales, 28, and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, 30 - are currently charged in Brazil for the murder and have been in the custody of Brazilian authorities since late February.
"This indictment was the direct result of outstanding cooperation and investigative efforts by Brazilian authorities," said U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. "Working with the Brazilians, we will continue to seek justice for Sister Stang’s many loved ones, here and abroad."
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein of the District of Columbia said, "Sister Stang’s murder was a tragic loss for Brazil, for the United States and for all humanity. We will not rest until all who participated in this brutal and cowardly crime are apprehended and brought to justice."
Stang, 74, was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international Catholic religious order that works for social justice and human rights on five continents. Stang was from Ohio, but had lived and worked as a missionary in Brazil for the past 35 years.
Stang was a well-known activist for agrarian reform in the Amazon region of Pará State. She worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, the Catholic Church's arm that fights for the rights of rural workers, peasants and defends land reforms in Brazil.
Stang’s murder, allegedly by employees of a Brazilian land holder, is widely regarded as a direct response to her activism in advocating land reform and peasants’ rights within the programs set forth by the Brazilian government.
She was killed at a small sustainble settlement of landless peasant families, 30 miles from the town of Anapu in the state of Pará.
The indictment charges that in the early morning hours of February 12, 2005, the defendants approached Stang on a dirt road and shot her at least three times, killing her.
The indictment alleges that the defendants had been offered the equivalent of $20,000 to commit the murder and that they had set out to find Stang on the previous night, but were unsuccessful.
After the murder, the defendants are alleged to have fled and hid in the jungle until they were arrested by Brazilian authorities on or about February 21, 2005.
The investigation is being handled by agents of the FBI’s Miami Field Division, in close coordination with Brazilian law enforcement authorities. The prosecution is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice.
Food Aid Will Flow to North KoreaWASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - The United States will donate agricultural commodities to North Korea through the UN World Food Programme and is prepared to support health and food security programs for the people of North Korea, the U.S. Department of State announced Wednesday.
Fifty thousand metric tons of agricultural commodities will be donated through the World Food Program's 2005 emergency feeding operation, the announcement said.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States is also prepared to support targeted health interventions for children and small-scale food security projects in North Korea.
"We will be working with UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations with activities in North Korea to identify targeted programs that will meet the needs of vulnerable groups," he said.
North Korea has recently indicated willingness to return to nuclear weapons negotiations at the so-called six party talks with the United States, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan. The North Koreans said Pyongyang would renounce nuclear arms if the United States demonstrates a friendly attitude.
But Washington said the food aid decision was made independent of the status of the nuclear talks.
U.S. decisions on humanitarian contributions are based on demonstrated need, competing needs elsewhere, and humanitarian organizations' ability to have access to all vulnerable groups and monitor the assistance, Ereli said.
The United States used the food aid announcement to urge the North Korean government to improve humanitarian monitoring and access conditions in the country. "Current restrictions imposed by the government continue to severely limit the ability of the international community to accurately determine the extent of humanitarian needs in the country and the locations of the most vulnerable populations," the State Department said.
"The World Food Program has informed us that it is attempting to implement a new food monitoring system to reduce the risk of diversion," Ereli said. But even if this system is successfully implemented, he said North Korea would still fall short of meeting international standards of humanitarian access.
Mayors Lobby Congress for Metro Focused Transportation Billa>WASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - The United States Conference of Mayors has sent a letter to Transportation Committee Conferees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate urging legislators to pass a well-funded, six year surface transportation bill that pays particular attention to infrastructure needs in cities and metro areas.
The House and Senate have each passed a version of the transportation bill and have formed Conference Committe to reconcile the two versions into a single piece of legislation that can be sent to President George W. Bush to be signed into law.
Congressman Don Young, an Alaska Republican who chairs both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Conference Committee, said there should be no reason this bill cannot be sent to the President before the current extension expires on June 30.
Over 100 mayors signed the letter calling on Congressional members to recognize that cities and suburbs drive the nation's economy and continued growth of the nation's economy is dependent on substantial transportation infrastructure investment in America's cities.
"To keep metro areas globally competitive, we must increase transportation investment in them through a strong federal partnership," said Beverly O'Neill, who serves both as Conference president and the mayor of Long Beach, California.
"Congested metropolitan highways, transit demand exceeding resources, structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges, tunnels, and rail are urgent reminders of a transportation infrastructure crisis that is jeopardizing America's prosperity," she said.
Noting that the legislation expired in October 2003, the Conference of Mayors is urging the House and the Senate Transportation Conferees to approve a $295 billion reauthorization of the surface transportation law that invests in America's cities.
The mayors are asking for "maximum funding" for public transportation "to stimulate a dramatic expansion of high-capacity public transit systems." They also want "a substantial increase" in air quality improvement funding.
"Because it difficult for localities and states to dedicate adequate resources to build, rebuild, or replace large-scale infrastructure projects addressing freight and goods movement, safety, and aging and congested transportation infrastructure, cities need the highest possible funding for Projects of National and Regional Significance," they said.
The mayors said cities are struggling with the contamination of drinking water and cleanup of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds from storm water discharge, including oil, grease, lead and mercury. The remedy is to establish a Highway Stormwater Discharge Mitigation Program, which they called "critical."
This investment, the mayors say, will be repaid in future economic growth that benefits the entire country.
In the last 10 years, cities and suburbs have generated 87 percent of the nation's economic growth, over $3.8 trillion, and over 85 percent of the nation's economic output, labor income and jobs. And, as the nation has grown, American have moved to cities and metro areas in great numbers, the mayors point out. Today, more than 83 percent of Americans live in a metro area.
Philadelphia Policeman Dies Guarding Biotech ConferencePHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - The BIO 2005 Annual International Convention ended its four days at the Philadelphia Convention Center Wednesday with new records for attendance and international representation. The host Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said total registration was 18,730, with representatives from 56 countries and all 50 U.S. states.
“This has been BIO’s best convention ever, and we could not have pulled it off without a tremendous outpouring of support from government and industry leaders in the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware,” said BIO President James Greenwood.
Innovation was the medical and scientific theme as researchers discussed new ways to predict, treat, and eventually cure some of the most stubborn diseases.
“The mapping of the human genome has given us a new starting point to analyze how diseases work and how best to research new therapies - nanotechnology, personalized medicine, new approaches to obesity and cancer," said Greenwood.
But protesters concerned about "BIO's closed-door agenda of medicine for profit, genetically engineered agriculture and bioweapons proliferation" attempted to press their views on delegates by surrounding the convention center.
A Philadelphia police officer died during a clash Tuesday near the convention center. Officer Paris Williams, 52, a 19 year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department assigned to the Civil Affairs Unit, "was involved in a scuffle with protestors," said police spokesman Inspector William Colarulo.
He collapsed and was immediately transported to Hahnemann University Hospital where he was pronounced dead within the hour. An investigation into the incident is underway.
Demonstrators say Williams was not involved in the scuffle.
Greenwood said, “We are especially grateful to the Philadelphia police officers who kept our attendees and the surrounding area safe throughout the convention. We join the city today in mourning the loss of one its finest, Officer Paris Williams, who died of an apparent heart attack while trying to keep protestors from entering the convention center.”
A dozen protesters were arrested during the four day conference and most are still in jail.
Guillaume Beaulieu of Canada, charged with two felonies, has had his bail set at $100,000. All the others arrested face misdemeanor charges. Initially their bail was set at $960 each, but Thursday afternoon during the arraignment hearing the attorney for the prosecution appealed the initial bail decisions. Three people in jail on misdemeanors had their bails raised to $50,000 each.
BIO 2005’s economic impact on the city of Philadelphia, its hotels, restaurants, taxi operators, is estimated at more than $35 million.
“But that’s only the beginning of the impact of this convention,” said Greenwood. “We scheduled 7,500 meetings between companies seeking partners for collaboration and development, and many thousands more discussions took place informally."
“The convention will yield a lasting legacy for the tri-state region’s biopharmaceutical industry,” said Greenwood. “It has put the local life-sciences community on the map globally and should boost venture capital interest in the region’s startup companies over the long term. As a Philadelphia native and resident, I am especially proud of that accomplishment.”
Los Angeles to Appeal Storm Water Cleanup RequirementsLOS ANGELES, California, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - In closed session Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to continue a long running legal battle against storm water cleanup requirements that the regional water board is attempting to impose.
In a 3-2 vote, the supervisors authorized an appeal of the Superior Court's judgment against the county.
The lawsuit challenges the Los Angeles County Municipal Storm Water Permit issued by the Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board.
On March 25, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge rejected the most extensive legal challenge ever filed against a polluted storm water cleanup plan in California.
The judge ruled in favor of the Regional Water Quality Control Board and three conservation groups - the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Heal the Bay, and Santa Monica Baykeeper - that intervened as formal parties in the lawsuit. NRDC and the California Attorney General's Office jointly defended the cleanup plan in court.
The L.A. county storm water cleanup permit, issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board under the federal Clean Water Act and state law, aims to reduce the largest source of pollution to California's coast.
New measures such as drain filters, silt-removal basins, and more rigorous inspections of industrial facilities are required under the permit.
The plan differs from past storm water control efforts by requiring measurable improvement in coastal water quality and not just effort by cities, industry, and developers - all of whom have responsibilities under the plan.
"This decision holds developers and local governments accountable for our top source of water pollution," said David Beckman, senior attorney with NRDC and lead trial attorney on the case shortly after the decision. "Southern California's waters will be getting cleaner as a result of this ruling, and that's good for public health, the environment and the local economy."
Claiming that the storm water cleanup plan would be too costly, the Board of Supervisors has decided to appeal. Before the Superior Court, the county had argued that the Water Quality Control Board did not adequately weigh economic impact when creating the storm water plan.
"We want to do everything we can to accomplish clean water as much as anyone," Howard Gest, a private attorney representing the county told the "Los Angeles Times."
"But we want to make sure that the programs that are required of the county are cost-effective and proven."
Public opinion polls consistently demonstrate the high priority that Southern Californians put on efforts to restore water quality in local waters. Los Angeles city voters last November adopted Proposition O, a $500 million bond measure to reduce polluted storm water runoff that contaminates local rivers, lakes and beaches.
Pennsylvania Awards $10 Million for Clean Energy Projects
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - Pristine Resources Inc. will receive $3.5 million to convert waste heat from a 1.7-million ton per year coking operation into an operation that will produce 130 megawatts of electricity annually. The project will create 179 jobs at the coking operation and another 500 jobs in three coal mines that would be reopened to provide feedstock to the plant. Another 1,000 jobs would be created to construct the project.
The grant is the largest of 17 clean energy grants totalling $10 million announced by the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) Thursday.
These are the first awards by the newly revitalized agency as the state works to build an energy manufacturing base that will realize environmental benefits, economic growth and enhanced homeland security, said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.
“We, in Pennsylvania, have the ingenuity and resources to develop and deploy new clean energy technology,” McGinty said. “Our commonwealth is offering significant financial incentives to make energy manufacturing a cornerstone in the state’s economic future and ensure that more electricity generation comes from environmentally beneficial sources.
"PEDA refocuses our priorities on indigenous energy resources by investing in clean, efficient energy made in Pennsylvania," she said.
The 17 selected projects will receive financial assistance in the form of grants or loans for a variety of electric power projects, including wind, solar, biomass, waste coal and coal gasification, and comprehensive redevelopment plans. The state financing supports millions of dollars in funding being invested into the projects by private interests.
Community Energy Inc. will receive $1 million to build a 24 megawatt utility scale wind farm using Gamesa turbines to produce 73,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually
Southeastern Chester County Refuse Authority will receive $500,000 to develop a landfill gas collection system to produce 6.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
Franklin Fuel Cells Inc. will receive $460,000 to research ongoing development of solid oxide fuel cell technology.
These projects will stimulate the state economy, McGinty said, creating as many as 1,786 permanent and construction jobs in the commonwealth. In addition, the research projects, if successful, could net as many as 327 full-time jobs.
Currently, DEP is receiving applications for the Pennsylvania Energy Harvest Grant Program, which funds projects that save resources, improve the environment, spur economic growth and job creation, and enhance homeland security. The program awarded $10 million and leveraged another $26.7 million in private funds since its inception May 2003.
Pennsylvania voters approved a $625 million bond initiative in the May 17 primary election to fund a set of environmental programs dubbed Growing Greener II, and the administration and Legislature are working to enact enabling legislation to fund environmental initiatives included in Growing Greener II.
"Rendell’s Growing Greener II initiative is critical to expanding Energy Harvest and building on the success that the program and other energy initiatives already have achieved," McGinty said.
High School Teacher, NGO Leader Win Conservation Awards
WASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2005 (ENS) - International Paper and The Conservation Fund Thursday recognized Alan Hutchinson, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine, and Mike Town, a Washington state high school science teacher, for their "unique appreciation of the environment and their outstanding efforts to protect natural resources through leadership in conservation and education."
The 2005 International Paper Environmental Excellence Awards, each accompanied by an unrestricted $10,000 grant from the International Paper Company Foundation, were presented at the National Press Club in Washington.
Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary of policy, management and budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior, delivered the keynote address. "Their impressive work to create lasting partnerships between business, academic and conservation communities demonstrates the vital importance of maintaining a healthy environment along with a solid and growing economy," she said.
The International Paper Conservation Partnership Award, now in its 17th year, is presented annually to an individual who has achieved significant results in the protection of habitat through a cooperative relationship with a business or company.
Presenting the excellence awards were David Liebetreu, International Paper's vice president of Forest Resources, and Lawrence Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund.
Hutchison won the 2005 IP Conservation Partnership Award. Since 1997, he has led the Forest Society of Maine, located in Bangor, in the development of conservation projects protecting nearly 400,000 acres of the state's forests.
He has led the Society's partnership effort on the 20,000-acre Nicatous Lake easement; the campaign to acquire Big Spencer Mountain, six miles of undeveloped shoreline on Moosehead Lake and the West Branch campaign that permanently conserved 329,000 acres of forest.
Hutchison also led the development of an easement oversight and management program for landscape-scale easements to help assure that conservation objectives are accomplished as originally envisioned.
The International Paper Environmental Education Award is presented annually to an educator who has developed an innovative approach to environmental education that significantly improves student comprehension of environmental issues, fosters an understanding of the link between environmental protection and economic growth, demonstrates leadership and inspires achievement.
Town, a teacher at Redmond High School in Duvall, Washington, was awarded the 2005 IP Environmental Education Award.
He established an interdisciplinary study program for 10th and 11th grade students performing at low levels. The unique program, now known as Pathfinder, provides meaningful learning experiences for students with learning disabilities. Under his leadership, graduation rates of Pathfinder students doubled from previous rates.
Town also developed an Advanced Placement Environmental Science program giving students the opportunity to complete a full year of curriculum in 90 days. His students have achieved a pass rate on the nationwide test in the mid-to-high 80 percent range compared to the nationwide average in the low-to-mid 50 percent range.
"Alan and Mike share International Paper's passion for protecting natural resources," said Liebetreu. "It is a privilege to recognize individuals who have made such an exceptional conservation and environmental contribution to their communities that spans across the United States from Maine to Washington."